What’s a week without controversy?

Trifles light as air
Are to the jealous confirmations strong
As proofs of holy writ.
—William Shakespeare, Othello

One big Internet controversy this week was Saban, Rapoport and the numbers on scholarship. I didn’t comment on it earlier this week because honestly I’m bored by the conversation—we’ve had it before, and seem doomed to have it over and over again. However, Rapoport asked a good question, and it is something every Alabama fan cares about. Understandably, it is something Saban declined to answer.

Rapoport counted 66 players on scholarship at the conclusion of spring drills. Sunday Morning Quarterback calculated 64 players.

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According to Sunday Morning QB:

For Saban’s sake, let’s take the low number. Still, 64 + 25 > 85. In addition to the six or seven players in the incoming class who’ll have to be whittled out, four returning players are over the line (six by Rapoport’s count). And they won’t be fifth-year seniors: nine of the ten guys still around from the 2004 class are all starters or multiple letter-winners (Antoine Caldwell, Brandon Fanney, Ezekiel Knight, Travis McCall, Will Oakley, Nikita Stover, Nick Walker, Lorenzo Washington, John Parker Wilson) whose departure would warrant much more than a shrug and a line at the bottom of the roundup. The only one who might go quietly is career scout-teamer Drew Davis.

Odds are that some of these players could fail to be around for the Fall. Ezekiel Knight, one of my favorite players, may not be able to play another down of football due to his medical condition. Knight was held out for the entire spring, and there has been no official word about Knight’s status for the Fall. With all the experimenting at linebacker, one could draw a conclusion that Knight’s status is doubtful—NOT because Saban would want to cut Knight, but due to Knight’s serious medical situation.

Of course, Knight could receive an all-clear from doctors. However, other players have faced injuries during the spring. And that’s my point. Despite a very good estimate from Rapoport and SMQ, we don’t know what the real numbers are, and we won’t know for months.

SMQ estimated 4 players on scholarship would need to be cut. I just showed one very likely cut for a non-sinister reason. Other medical, academic or personal reasons we don’t know about could also be in the offing. How can I predict that? Because attrition is a common occurrence in major college football. And much of the attrition has nothing to do with some big mean coach cutting players for selfish reasons.

Instead of waiting and criticizing when we know the Truth, bloggers are now doing what we criticize the mainstream media of doing—distorting information for the sake of controversy.

What we have here is a willful misunderstanding. Critics of Saban take their dislike for him, fostered by ESPN, and translate it into ill-conceived criticism. These ad hominem attacks get old, but they illustrate what is wrong with the Mainstream Media and bloggers.

Where do bloggers get their information? On ESPN, and by reading mainstream media sources. We like to pretend the Internet has broadened our access to information. And it has. But it has also created dime-store versions of Kevin Scarbinsky, Keith Olbermann or other buffoons.

Bloggers take their impressions from SportsCenter and create these types of attack pieces:

It certainly appears that Saban is not looking out for the kids as much as he is looking out for himself, which has been the case throughout his career.

When dealing with the media, Saban remains nothing short of a jackass. Last week, he apparently raised a stink about a blog post by Gentry Estes of the Mobile Press-Register. Estes was merely informing his readers that reporters are not allowed to watch Alabama scrimmages or practices.

Bloggers have decided Nick Saban is a prick.

Is he?

I haven’t met a coach who wasn’t. And I’ve met more than I ever wanted. In my experience, high school coaches are worse on average than college or NFL coaches. But most every coach, at every level, has the capacity to be an ass.

I can assure you Saban isn’t the anti-christ. He’s a shy individual in a political job. To borrow from WJOX’s Roundtable, Saban is an introvert in an extrovert’s job.

But back to the issue at hand, over-signing and the Alabama situation. The best summary of the situation was provided by Will Heath:

Anyway, everyone has his own view of the situation, and those of us who grew up loving Alabama football no doubt have our vision tainted by our crimson-colored glasses. As I said in an earlier post, this likely will wind up being nothing but a whole lot of sound a fury, signifying nothing (I really hate what you did to this phrase, Stu Scott). Someone will likely decide to give up football and get his MBA (like B.J. Stabler); someone will fail to qualify academically; someone, undoubtedly, will get pissed that a freshman is taking his spot and flee to Troy or even North Alabama. These things even out.

That sounds like common sense. It doesn’t have a place on our sports pages, or most blogs.



Add Yours
  1. 1
    Pete Holiday

    Can we please stop assuming the accuracy of people like Cook, Gayle, and SMQ?

    They didn’t “count” or “calculate” they “guessed”. We don’t know that they’re right or even close. In fact, we don’t even really know the LIKELIHOOD that they’re right (or close) because we all, even the beat writers, are pretty far removed from the situation.

    It’s possible that this issue is 10 scholarships from being worked out. It’s also possible that it’s 3, 2 or 1 scholarships from working itself out.

    And, sadly for everyone, all we know is that it will be worked out by the start of fall practice, one way or another. Those who have an ax to grind will assume it was done through nefarious dealings. Those who don’t will just scratch their heads and wonder what all happened behind the scenes… but it is very, very unlikely that at any point UA, Saban, or the NCAA is going to come out and say “Here is the scholarship status of every player currently on our roster.”

  2. 2

    You are 100-percent correct. The numbers are estimates at best (SMQ and Rapoport), and wild guesses (Cook) at worst.

    I believe we’ll see injuries end a couple of careers—making moot all this moaning.

    If these guys would just wait, and then complain, I’d have more respect for their positions.

  3. 4

    You do a disservice to OL Drew Davis. He was playing on the first team offense in the A-Day game, and appears to have beaten out another player for that job. Will a freshman come in and play like Andre Smith did? That remains to be seen, but if one does, that still leaves Drew, a Soph., as 2nd team.
    However, you are right about the rest. The numbers are just guesses.

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